Our next port was Livorno, the gateway to Florence and Pisa, two major stopping-points in Italy. Since these places are so significant, we chose to take an all-day tour to both cities. First, our tour took us to Florence, where we were free to roam around and explore on our own for several hours. Luckily for us, we were in Florence on a very special day. Every June 24 there is a festival in Florence, everyone is on holiday and all of the shops close down at 2pm for a parade through town. Since things would get hectic in the afternoon, our tour was in the morning – so we got the best of both worlds. We got to see the preparation for the festival (tents of food vendors, a carousel in the square, entertainers in the streets) and Florence everyday life as well, since the shops hadn’t closed yet. Florence is known for its leather goods and gold, so just about every store on the street was for one of the two, besides the high-fashion designer stores like Gucchi and Louis Vitton. We first visited the Palazzo Vecchio, where we saw a copy of Michelangelo’s David, among other beautiful statues and architecture.
We stopped in the Piazza Della Repubblica, where the festival’s main attractions were setting up. There was where we found the carousel and wine and food vendors. Of course, we couldn’t pass up tasting some of the local wine and buying a few bottles. Definitely some of the tastiest (and strongest!) wine we’ve ever found – and at less than $5 a bottle?!?!.
Next we stopped over at the Duomo, Florence’s most famous landmark. The Duomo’s intricate architecture is stunningly remarkable. We couldn’t get over how many tiny details were carved into the marble that makes up the cathedral and tower. We had learned earlier on the tour that the white marble used in many of the Florence architecture is abundant in the local mountains, and therefore is seen often around the area.
After a quick lunch (pizza, of course) we wandered over to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge that connects the main town of Florence to the Tuscan countryside. The bridge, we found, was actually completely lined with shops on either side – all of them jewelry shops. Gold and diamonds. Everywhere. The view from the bridge itself, however, was (to us) more beautiful than the glittering jewelry shop windows. On one side, Florence and its beautiful architecture, and on the other, the rolling green hills of Tuscany.
Florence, we’ll be back.
Pisa is a much smaller town, but with an equally famous landmark – the Leaning Tower of Pisa. At the present time it is leaning 14 ft to the side. We had about an hour to walk around the Field of Miracles, which is a grassy area a little larger than a football field. The Field of Miracles is home to three monuments, one of them being the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was actually a lot smaller in person than we expected – but still an interesting sight to see. As you could expect, every other person was posing for the typical “holding up the leaning tower” picture. We, of course, joined in.
Next up: Naples and the ruins of Pompeii